“Oh dear God, you weren’t kidding.”
Jesse pulled his winter coat tight around him, gawking at the scene before him. Lake sat on the park bench, one leg crossed over the other, a look of barely-concealed irritation and loathing on her face. Her chrome arms, open to the elements, gleamed in the midday sun. Between her reflective skin and the white of the snow around them, it was almost too blinding to look directly at her. The blizzard earlier in the week had hung around for several days, with the frigid temperatures showing no sign of rising anytime soon.
At Lake’s left, crouched on the ground, his tongue firmly attached to Lake’s exposed bicep, was a very familiar face. A familiar straggly mustache under a familiar blonde crewcut.
Jesse waved resignedly. “Hey, Davis.”
Jesse’s former friend waved back. “Hey, Yessey.” He slurred around his tongue, drool leaking around his mouth, soaking into Lake’s pant leg.
At Jesse’s side, Nate silently rose a middle finger at the one who had pressured Jesse into making him ride a file cabinet down a hill. Jesse gently thwapped his brother on the back of the head, before turning his attention back to Lake. “I told you to wear your jacket.”
Lake ground her metal teeth, making a low but sharp screech. “I know.”
“And what did you say?”
“I know, Jesse.”
“Oh, Jesse, I don’t feel cold like you do! I’ll be fine!” Jesse mimicked.
“I know, Jesse.”
Jesse turned his attention back to Davis. “Why. Just. Why.”
Davis shrugged, a complicated feat considering where his tongue was stuck. “Tahd dah’d me ta duh’t.”
Nate raised an eyebrow. “What did he say?”
“TAHD DAH’D ME TA DUH IT.” Davis raised his voice, before wincing, leaning back toward his stretched tongue.
“Todd dared you?” Jesse translated.
“Yesh.” Spittle flew from the corners of Davis’s mouth. Lake glared down at him. “I swear, if you don’t stop spitting on my pants, I will start running.”
“Try ih, bish.” Davis attempted to snarl. Lake immediately stood up, dragging Davis with her. She dramatically raised a leg. “Nate, count me off.”
Nate grinned, raising his arms above his head. “On your mark, get set-“
Davis waved his hands, his eyes wide. “Nuh! Nuh! I shorry! I shorry!”
Lake lowered her leg. “ ’s what I thought.” She cocked an eyebrow at Jesse. “His little turd friends ran off when this sociopath got stuck on me and I started yelling.”
As Nate giggled, Jesse sighed a long-suffering sigh. “Okay, you two, enough. Lake, why didn’t you guys walk to a bathroom and use the hand dryer or something?”
“I didn’t want to risk pulling his tongue off. Yeah, he deserves it, but I don’t want his grody blood on me. Not that this is much better…” she grumbled, wiping at her wet pant leg. “Puh-lease tell me you brought the thing.”
Jesse patted his brother on the back. “Got it, little man?” Nate produced the hair dryer from their parents bathroom, an electrical cord dangling from the end. “We’re still gonna have to find an electrical outlet, though.”
“Aw, greah.” Davis moaned.
Jesse stared at Davis through levelled eyes. “If you’re too inconvenienced by that, I’ve got my old Swiss Army knife in my pocket, we can get this done reeaaal quick.”
Davis began waving his arms again. “Nuh, Yessey! Nuh naif! Nuh naif!” Spit dripped down from Davis’s impossibly wet mouth, dribbling on Lake’s boots.
Jesse could almost hear Lake’s withering patience snap in half. She glared daggers at Davis. “Oh, quit yer bellyachin’!” She snarled, raising her foot and bringing it down on his with a mighty STOMP.
Davis’s head snapped backward, his tongue coming free from Lake’s cold metal bicep. With a strangled squawk, his hands flew to his mouth, hopping on one foot. “OW! OW! OW! OW!” He fell to his knees on the park’s cobblestone path, grabbed a handful of snow, and shoved it into his mouth.
Lake looked down at her arm, her eyes the size of dinner plates. “Aw, GROSS!”
Nate peered around Lake. “What happened?! Did he lose his tongue?!”
On Lake’s arm, a tiny, thin piece of skin barely the size of a pinkie nail remained.
Jesse peered down at it. “Ah, it’s just the surface layer. He’ll live.”
“GUH-ROSS, Jesse!” Lake began picking at the bit of skin on her arm.
On the group’s right, Davis rose from the snow like an angry God. “Yu ripp’d mai tung off, yu craishy bi-“
Davis’s repeated attempt to use a Bad Word was cut off by his face being impacted by an inbound hair dryer, hucked through the air with surprising accuracy by Nate. He staggered backward, a small wound having been gouged open on his forehead. Hand over his mouth, Davis apparently decided to cut his losses, and began to stagger away. “Dish ishn’t ovah!” he babbled over his shoulder.
Jesse scoffed as he watched the bully storm off through the snow. “I doubt that. The others will never let him live this down.”
A smile back on her face, Lake ruffled Nate’s hair. “My hero. Thanks, guys.”
“Lake, that was all you.”
Jesse held out his hand, a familiar brown jacket with wool trim draped over it. With a good-natured sigh, Lake took the jacket and slid her arms into the sleeves.
“C’mon, I’ll buy you guys something hot to drink. Plus I think I owe your mom a new hair dryer.”